on February 20, 2006
In this 1958 novel, Guenther Schwab gives playful yet vehement expression to German sentiments for nature protection. At one point in the book, Schwab has Satan take a group of potential recruits on a time machine through Spanish history. Moving fast forward from ancient times, the passengers watch as forests melt into sheep pastures. One passenger remarks, "It is as if a dangerous bacillus were eating the skin of a living body." The Devil laughs, gloating over his progress. In describing the destruction of nature as a Satanic plot, Schwab counts on his readers to respond with anger rather than resignation. He presumes that the Devil's plan can be thwarted, even in Spain. God, in this story, is a sympathist for the forests, meadows and untamed rivers. Perhaps this is an unusual role for the God of the Bible, but Schwab assigns it to Him anyway.
Like Schwab, many Europeans feel it obvious that their lands should be green and beautiful. Where this expectation is dashed, the locals usually cling to it anyway. Even residents of Berlin or London seldom accept the degradation of nature as "the way it is." They compare the reality before their eyes to images of nature in their minds. They may feel incapable of changing society, but still pass judgment upon it. The judgments arise from comparing reality to dreams, and the dreams come from memories of the past.
-author of The Gardens of Their Dreams